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Thanks again, Parla. Interesting.
I am not much of an opera watcher, I'm afraid - largely because I don't watch much tv at all. I should probably get hold of a few DVDs..........
I don't watch much Opera on tv either and I have only a handful of complete Operas on DVD. Contrary to what many people believe, I feel that Opera, although it serves theatrical purposes, it is the music that makes all the difference. Thus, the composers are the ones to make history, not the librettists, the directors etc. Even Wagner himself, although he envisaged his works as "Complete Works of Art" (Gesamtkunstwerke) and worked extremely hard to that end, eventually, his works were destined to be considered as...mere Operas and, in this way, Wagner is (mostly) admired, appreciated, considered as composer only.
A very musical, albeit uneven -and not of the highest quality- vocally, Ring is the second recording of Janowski, on Pentatone, from "live concert" performances. Particularly in SACD, the sound is very impressive and musically very exciting.
I admit I've been tempted by the second Janowski set, but was a bit put off by the quality of the voices.........I must look again. The first set, which I admire a lot, has its vocal problems, too, unfortunately. A dry, barking wobbly Theo Adam top of the list for me.......Also, I just can't stomach the "floaty" way Rene Kollo delivers his lines, though his basic tone is far from unnattractive.
I see, following on from this, that Kent Nagano is preparing to deliver the first complete HIP ring in a few years.........that could be interesting.
Yes, without the music, we may not be concerned with the text. But without the text, the effect on the musical value is a concern.
I agree that the music comes first, but the visual does play a part, and sometimes a big part. My personal favourite is the Bluray recording under Gergiev of l' oiseau de feu and le scacre du printemps by Stravinsky for the Ballets Russes. The recording's audio is spectacularly dynamic, but the reconstruction of the original choreography, stage set and costumes is clearly an important part of the whole experience. This is a Gesamtkunstwerk. In the old days with crt televisons and vhs recorders there was no point in trying to reproduce this domestically, but these days the technology has advanced so much that the video side has come alongside the audio. Neither is quite the real thing, but both are pretty good approximations.
I did not imply that we sacrifice (or deprive ourselves of) the text, Tjh. I just said that the music matters most and makes all the difference in Opera. To put it in another way, the text is the necessary...accessory, not the essence. That's why we talk almost exclusively about the composers.
In Ballet, things are somehow different. Often, particularly in the Romantic period, the composer put his music to the service of the visual action on the stage. Thus, The Nutcracker or The Swan Lake may be performed and seen more often in the theatre rather than to be heard as a concert work (although their Ballet Suites are standard repertory of the concert hall, since the music matters in some Classic/Romantic Ballets at least as much as the visual experience).
However, in the more modern Ballets, the composers wrote their music in a more abstract way, paying the necessary attention to the creation of a composition that is worthy as a musical work rather than mere Ballet music. So, it is a major event for the interested one to see an inspired choreography of The Firebird or The Sacre de Printemps, but how often these "Ballets" are performed as such and how often in the concert hall and how often they are treated as major groundbreaking works of Music?
If it is necessary, it should be part of the essence.
"Part of" is not equivalent of the essence, is it?
If not "the" essence is claimed, one asks then what is "the" essence? I don't believe there is a definitive answer to that.
In the beginning chorus of Don Carlo Act 2 Scene 2, the penultimate "noi" is sung on one minim. On some performances you may hear the3 part chorus arriving at the last letter "i" at different times, which is actually quite effective.
If we agree that the music (in Opera) is the essence (the most important quality of it) and the libretto/text is the accessory (something that is added to the musical composition to make it more useful, attractive, functional for thetrical purposes etc.), then, we do not need any "definitive" answer.
Moreover, the performers in Opera are professional singers (not actors) who first and primarily have to serve the music and, through that, to serve the text as well.
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